Icy weather blamed for traffic fatality in Arlington

Posted Monday, Mar. 03, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Arlington, H-E-B, Birdville, Keller and Dallas school districts closed Monday, as Fort Worth schools delayed classes and buses for two hours due to the icy road conditions.

Check your school district’s website before venturing out onto streets left with spotty ice by a sleet storm that rolled over North Texas Sunday and dropped temperatures to 16 degrees Monday morning.

The almost 400 customers who were without power Monday morning likely weren't affected by weather, said ONCOR spokesman Justin Ozuna.

"A lot of that is scattered and consistent with what we see every day," Ozuna said. "We avoided the sleet effect. No one area was affected by the bad weather."

The storm played a part in a traffic fatality in Arlington as well as dozens of other wrecks, and forced cancellation of almost 300 departures from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

Highway crews were out through the night working on roads as sub-freezing temperatures continued. A wind chill advisory was in effect until 10 a.m. Monday — with readings from zero to minus 5.

Fort Worth officials opened an emergency shelter for the homeless Sunday evening after four shelters — Union Gospel, Salvation Army, YWCA and the Presbyterian Night Shelter — reached capacity. The extra shelter, Bertha Collins Community Center, 1501 Martin Luther King N. Freeway (U.S. 287), can hold 100.

“We’re asking those that sleep in cars or any homeless person to get indoors,” Otis Thornton, the city’s homelessness program director, said Sunday. Freezing temperatures are expected to continue through Tuesday morning.

Officials with the Electric Reliablity Council of Texas repeated a plea to customers to limit electricity use as much as possible Monday.

“The cold weather and accompanying wind that has spread across the region today [Sunday] is expected to result in high electric demand for tomorrow’s peak,” said Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s director of system operations. “Based on the level of generation supplies that we expect to be available, we are asking consumers throughout the ERCOT region to reduce their electricity use as much as possible Monday morning.”

They suggest that residents avoid running large appliances and keep the thermostat as low as is comfortable. ERCOT, which manages the flow of electricity to almost 24 million Texas customers, recommended that businesses consider shutting down or reducing nonessential production processes.

Arlington police said icy conditions likely led to a fatal accident Sunday afternoon on U.S. 287. The wreck took place about 12:30 p.m. while a driver was standing at the side of the northbound lanes near a disabled pickup. A vehicle came off the overpass, lost control and hit the man and pickup.

The pickup driver, Alfonso Barrientos-Perez, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene. His government ID did not list a place of residence.

The driver of the second vehicle was taken to Medical Center of Arlington with injuries that are not life-threataning, Arlington police said.

Fort Worth firefighters responded to 176 accidents caused by weather Sunday.

MedStar called additional staff members in to work Sunday to handle emergency calls, spokesman Matt Zavadsky said. MedStar paramedics historically see a dramatic increase in emergency calls during icy weather because of traffic crashes and falls on ice.

At DFW Airport, airlines canceled more than 270 departures, about 29 percent of Sunday’s flight schedule. Another 40 flights were canceled Monday morning. Check the DFW Airport website for the status of your flight.

The weather forced many school officials to call off classes or delay openings on Monday. The Arlington, Grapevine-Colleyville, Keller and Birdville districts canceled classes for Monday. The Fort Worth district delayed classes two hours.

All North Texas cities were reporting temperatures well below freezing at 3 p.m. Sunday, after reaching highs near 80 on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth. The drop came quickly — it was 76 degrees at 1 p.m. Saturday, and 25 degrees just 24 hours later. The temperature dropped to 16 at DFW Airport by 7 a.m. Monday.

Travel is expected to be hazardous in spots but sunshine and dry winds Monday will help clear ice off the roads, the weather service said.

“We could also see problems on Tuesday morning because whatever melted on Monday will freeze again,” said Joe Harris, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Fort Worth.

Precipitation ended Sunday evening but subfreezing temperatures continued, with winds at 15 to 20 mph and a wind chill near zero. Residents awoke to temperatures in the teens Monday, with a forecast of partly sunny skies the rest of the day and daytime temperatures in the low 30s.

Freezing temperatures return Tuesday morning, when forecasters are calling for lows in the mid-20s. But highs are expected to reach 50 degrees.

“I’m not saying that’s the end of winter yet,” Harris said.

Morning temperatures for the rest of the week will be in the mid-30s, and daytime temperatures will be in the 50s, reaching the upper 60s by Friday.

Sunday was the 52nd day of freezing temperatures this winter season, the seventh-most in DFW history.

Staff writer Terry Evans contributed to this report.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763 Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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